Updated: Interview with Vivid Ideas performer ILUKA: The moment I cease to travel is when I have lost my sense of curiosity and wonder for the world
As the countdown to Music Love's Vivid Ideas event Pathway to Platform continues, we have been interviewing the panellists to give everyone a head start on just how much gold there will be on Saturday 10 June in Sydney. (By the way, did you know The Sydney Morning Herald, Collective Hub, Broadsheet Sydney, Vice and Pedestrian TV have all highlighted our event as one to be at?). So far we have profiled Vicki Gordon, Jacqui Louez Schoorl, Dr Rita Crews OAM, Shefali Pryor, KLP, and one of our performers, Sophie Koh. Today, we wanted to re-run our interview with retro singer/songwriter Iluka who will be flying in between her support slot for Killing Heidi just to sing for us!
We look forward to hosting you at Vivid Ideas. In the meantime, enjoy this interview from February this year.
Nikki Thorburn's voice was made to tell stories. The Sydney-based artist - strike that, Sydney-based-"ish" more on that later - is better known under her musical moniker ILUKA. While her style has evolved slightly over the years, from reflective haunting songs like To The Place (2011) released under her real name, to playful doo-wop tunes like her 2012 song Paper Doll to the seasoned vintage Fleetwood Mac-esque sound of 12th of July (2014), ILUKA's voice consistently compels you to listen. Now, she has released two new singles from her upcoming EP Blue My Soul which is due out 17 February, and they are bangers. ILUKA has continued to, for want of a better phrase, grow as an artist in her sound and her songwriting. If these two songs, Blue My Soul and Blue Jean Baby, are anything to go by, the rest of the album will continue to cement her place as an Australian artist we should all be proud of. ILUKA's distinctive, raspy voice has aged like a fine wine, if that is possible at 24. While you wait for the new EP, make sure you sift through ILUKA's back catalogue. Everything she writes and produces and creates is filled with so much soul. ILUKA took the time to chat with Music Love all about her new album and tour, being a spiritual person and how she will never cease to travel the world.
Photos by Abbie Jean
What does music mean to you?
Music to me is the universal language that allows us to feel and to express something that cannot be put purely into words. Beyond barriers of race and religion and language, music touches us, unites us, even with just a recognition that another feels what we feel and understands
You say your music was "seeded in a Buddhist Monastery in South East Asia, sprouted in India, and then finally blossomed in the expansive plains of America like rare desert flowers.” That’s quite a road trip! How important is a life on the road to your art?
It is everything. As Kerouac said “our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life." There is no destination, no end goal, no resolution. That is the beauty and the mystery of it. That is what inspires me to seek, to be open to possibility, and to dwell in creative waters.
Can you ever see yourself not travelling?
No, because the moment I cease to travel is when I have lost my sense of curiosity and wonder for the world. If that day ever comes, it would be a very sad day indeed.
Are you a spiritual person?
Most definitely. I guess through my travels and constant seeking and questioning, I have come to realise that ultimately we are all one, a part of something so much greater than ourselves and when our physical bodies perish, we will return to wherever that is. I could never buy into any institution of religious dogma, nor to the secular insistence that there is no mystery, no ultimate source or depth and no meaning other than what we give to life. I never proclaim to have the answers, but I do know that through all my experience thus far, that as humans we have the potential to tap into that ‘something larger’ – whether you call it God, or Jung’s ‘collective consciousness’ or merely the world’s soul, and, when we do, love is realisable, compassion is realisable, peace is realisable and thriving – not merely ‘getting by’ or ‘surviving’. That to me is living a spiritual life.
What lyric on this upcoming album sums up your music?
From Blue My Soul: "Oh magnificent sorrow, oh how lovely you are, to see with the eyes of angels, looking down from the stars."
Tell us about your father’s music
My Dad has written and played his own songs since I can remember. These days he focuses more on building guitars but the last bunch of songs he recorded were a really beautiful collection of folk inspired songs. He is definitely a storyteller and I have always admired that about him and his music.
You recorded this EP to tape, which is super cool. When did you make the decision that that was how you wanted to do this album?
I always had the idea floating around my head and it wasn’t until someone mentioned a studio in Sydney with a tape machine, that I was like ‘yep, I need to record this EP there.’ Next day my manager made the phone call and the rest is history!
Favourite electric guitar?
My 1962 hollow body orange stain Chet Atkins model Gretsch. Her name is Dusty and she is my baby!
What is your favourite Australian vintage store?
I’m loving Brahminy Exchange at the moment.
What is your wildest musical dream?
To record my debut album with Dan Auerbach from the Black Keys in some mountainous rural retreat.
Who are your favourite Australian women in music?
Nai Palm, Sampa the Great and Meg Mac just to name a few. To me, they have strong identities and are outspoken about what matters to them, and that is reflected in their music.
Who is your favourite Australian non-musical artist?
Del Kathryn Barton. I have always really deeply connected with her work. It is very rooted in the feminine and there is this other-worldliness about it, this allure into the ‘unseen world’. I love her ability to take you on a journey like that through one painting or one collage.
What is your favourite place in Australia?
Definitely my mother’s farm over the Blue Mountains. Long afternoon trail rides on the horses through the pine forest with Mum, and evening jams out on the verandah with Dad as a storm rolls in over the mountains. Heaven on earth.